Equitable access to vaccine, transparency and open trade essential for COVID-19 fight: ASEAN, US foreign ministers

April 23, 2020 - 23:00

ASEAN countries and the US committed to accelerating the COVID-19 vaccine development and ensuring equitable access to vaccine, foreign ministers stressed on Thursday at a special meeting on COVID-19. 


Việt Nam's Foreign Minister Phạm Bình Minh discusses with his ASEAN and US counterparts at the Special ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers' Meeting on COVID-19 on Thursday. — VNA/VNS Photo Lâm Khánh 

HÀ NỘI — ASEAN countries and the US committed to accelerating the COVID-19 vaccine development and ensuring equitable access to vaccines, foreign ministers stressed on Thursday at a special meeting on COVID-19. 

Deputy Prime Minister, Foreigh Minister Nguyễn Bình Minh, on behalf of Việt Nam’s 2020 ASEAN Chairmanship, joined other ASEAN foreign ministers and the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to exchange views on the COVID-19 situation as well as discuss experiences, strategies and partnerships in fighting the pandemic. 

Foreign ministers agreed on information exchange, capability improvement and policy cooperation as critical solutions to respond to medical emergencies in the future. 

They also made commitments to support each other’s citizens who are affected by the disease and coordinate actions to minimise socio-economic impacts caused by outbreaks.

The two sides also stated to take efforts to stablise markets, maintain the global and regional supply chains, especially for essential goods, as well as exchange mechanisms to recover economies via incentives of ASEAN-USAID Partnership for Regional Optimisation within the Political-Security and Socio-Cultural Communities (PROSPECT) and Inclusive Growth in ASEAN through Innovation, Trade and E-Commerce (IGNITE). 

Referring to the regional and international situation, the meeting emphasised that in the context that countries are focusing their efforts and resources on the fight against epidemics, it is necessary to maintain the regional order based on laws and regulations, ensure peace, stability, security and rule of law in the region. Foreign ministers said, more than ever, countries need to increase confidence and transparency, avoiding any activities that complicate the situation.

Deputy PM Minh presented measures carried out by the Vietnamese Government and positive outcomes in preventing and controlling the pandemic in the country, adding Việt Nam would keep collaborating with other the international community including the US and World Health Organisation in pushing back COVID-19.  

He also asked the US for support in terms of technology, research and treatment, at the same time, ensure rights and equality of ASEAN citizens living in the US. 

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Balakrishnan emphasised the significance of working with ASEAN and Dialogue Partners to ensure the openness of trade lines and supply chains, especially for medical supplies and food.  

Maintaining open trade would help ASEAN countries’ economies recover quicker post virus, he said.  

Responding to his ASEAN counterparts, Secretary Pompeo expressed high appreciation toward ASEAN for their valuable support in promoting the continued flow of vital medical supplies into the United States.

“For example, Việt Nam expedited clearances for charter flights to deliver 2.2 million personal protective suits to the United States, and we expect more shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the coming weeks.  Additionally, since the beginning of April, Malaysia facilitated the speedy delivery of over 1.3 million kilograms of gloves for US healthcare workers. Cambodia helped Americans safely return home from the Westerdam cruise ship,” he said. 

According to Pompeo, the US will deploy all available measures to minimise damage of the pandemic and restore global growth.  

“We start from a strong foundation with US$294 billion in two-way goods trade in 2019 and $273 billion of US Foreign Direct Investment across ASEAN countries,” he added. 

He also expressed concern over aggressive activities of China in the South China Sea (known as East Sea in Việt Nam) and called for regional collaboration in maintaining peace and stability. 

“Even as we fight the outbreak, we must remember that the long-term threats to our shared security have not disappeared. In fact, they’ve become more prominent. Beijing has moved to take advantage of the distraction, from China’s new unilateral announcement of administrative districts over disputed islands and maritime areas in the South China Sea, its sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel earlier this month, and it’s “research stations” on Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef,” he said. 

“We commit to continue to build for the future based upon the tried and true principles that we share – ASEAN centrality, openness, transparency, a rules-based framework, good governance, and respect for sovereignty,” the secretary added.